Research Reference Manual

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Academic research is a field that has proved to be very challenging to many students and scholars. This manual is written to provide quick accessible guidelines to any student undertaking a research study. It includes most of the terms that are used in research methodology.

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Definition of Key terms and concepts


There are various definitions of research, but all point to the same meaning “search for Knowledge” (Walliman, 2005). The generally accepted meaning states that research is a careful inquiry, particularly through search for new data in any division of knowledge. It involves defining problem, formulating hypothesis, and collecting, organizing and analyzing data.

Basic and applied Research

Applied research is research that is aimed at identifying a solution to an immediate challenge faced by society or a business. Example, determining the causes of increased drug abuse by the youths of a particular locality. Basic research is mainly concerned with generalization and formulation of theory “gathering knowledge for the sake of it” (Kothari, 1995).

Theory; empirical data, Primary versus secondary data

Theory refers to a set of abstract ideas or facts that are used to explain a phenomenon. Theory can be generated using empirical, primary or secondary data. Empirical data is data that is obtained by observation alone without due regard for system and observation. Primary data is collected through experiment and survey while secondary data is obtained from secondary sources like records, journals or articles.

Research article, literature review, journal and magazine

A research article is a detailed written presentation of ideas using external sources to explain of substantiate. It includes: a title that captures the field of research, an introduction, literature review, research findings, analysis, conclusion and bibliography list. The literature review involves an account of other works that have been done and are related to the topic of study. “The literature review is used to show the gap that the researcher intends to fill” (Kothari, 1995). Research findings can be published in a journal that publishes information in relevant fields of study. It can also be published in a magazine which is a publication that is normally issued at intervals, usually a month or a week.

Quantitative, Qualitative and mixed method research

Quantitative research is research that is based on measurement of quantity or amount. “It is applied to phenomena that can be quantified” (Kothari, 1995). For Example, investigation of effects of increasing doses of a particular drug. Qualitative research is concerned with qualitative phenomena. For Example, when one is interested in investigating the reason for a particular human behavior. Mixed method research is one that encompasses the two basic types of research; quantitative and qualitative.

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Scales of measurement

Measurement refers to the assigning of numbers to occurrences or objects in a systematic manner. Measurement is normally described in four levels which include: nominal, ordinal, interval and ratio. Nominal measurement is used in qualitative research and it refers to assigning objects to categories or groups without ordering or giving of any quantitative, religious affiliation and race are examples of nominal measurements. In ordinal scales the measurements are ordered, higher numbers represent higher values in ordinal scales the intervals may or may not be equal and the lowest point of measurement is normally chosen arbitrary. On the interval scale a unit is usually used to represent a specific magnitude trait. For example, in taking measurement of temperature, the difference between 0 and 1 degree Celsius is equal to the difference between 16 and 17 degrees Celsius. The ratio scale is similar to the interval scale only that it has a “true zero” point (Moser, 1979). For Example, temperature of 1 degree is twice that of 0 degrees.

Measurement of Validity and Reliability

Validity and reliability are measurements that are related in the research process. Reliability refers to the ability of a measuring instrument to produce the same results in repeated measures, “it measures consistency” (Moser, 1979). If the blood glucose level is measured twice with the same instrument on same sample and the results are similar then the instruments will be said to reliable. Validity refers to the closeness of an outcome to the truth. A test is said to be valid if it yields expected results that can be ascertained using other techniques or tests.

Descriptive and inferential statistics

Descriptive statistics refers to statistics that explains the state of affairs as it exists during the time of research. It is used to establish relationships between variables. The researcher has no control on the variables. In the inferential statistics the researcher uses information that is already available to analyze and make critical evaluation of the problem.

Deductive logic, inductive reasoning and critical thinking

“Reasoning is a way of coming to conclusion by use of logical argument” (Walliman, 2005). Traditionally arguments are divided into two different types, deductive and inductive. Although in every argument there is claim that it’s based on some truth. Deductive logic involves the assertion that its basis provides conclusive grounds. Technical terms ‘valid’ and ‘invalid’ are used in place of ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’, validity of a deductive argument is determined by their logical form. Logical statements can be divided into three forms trivial (obvious), true by definition (definitions are believed to be true) and mathematical propositions which are said to be true by necessity. An Example of deductive logic will be; “all humans die, Dan is human, Dan will therefore die.” An inductive argument normally gives a claim that its contribution provides support for the conclusion rather than forming a basis for the conclusion. In inductive argument we “infer general truths from the particular” (Walliman, 2005). Example of inductive reasoning; Kitty (a cat) is brown and a thief, my neighbor’s cat is brown and a thief also, therefore all brown cats are thieves. Critical thinking refers to the ability to reason out things and predict, plan and control.

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The scientific method

Scientific method is the discipline which forms the basis of scientific investigation. It is characterized by five assumptions; the first is the belief that there is some order in the universe and it’s possible to gain some sort of understanding in this order. The second assumption is the belief in existence of external reality. The third is the reliability of human perception and intellect. The fourth assumption is the principle of parsimony, that “phenomena should be explained in as economic a manner as possible”(Walliman, 2005). The fifth and final assumption is generality, which asserts that there can be valid relationships between specific cases researched and the common circumstances in the world. The characteristics of scientific method are: It is generated by un an answered question, it requires clarification through stamen of objectives, it entails a specified program of activities, requires logical argument to support conclusions and finally it advances knowledge and leads to more questions that need to be researched.

Ethics and codes of conduct

An ethic is defined as a “system off moral principle and rule of conduct” (Walliman, 2005). In conducting research there are ethical issues that need to be tackled. The first issue comes from the values of honesty, frankness and personal integrity. The second issue is concerned with ethical responsibilities to the subjects of research. The code of conduct guides a researcher through the research process. Generally, researcher is required to be honest, avoid being patronizing, avoid marginalizing and gender stereotyping. The participants need to issue an informed consent regarding their willingness to participate and the potential harm should be made clear to them.

Informed consent, confidentiality, anonymity, no harm, right to privacy, honesty with professional colleagues

Informed consent refers to a decision taken by the participant to take part or not to in a research activity. They should be able to make a fair assessment of the project and give an informed consent. To access confidential private information like hospital records the researcher needs to look for a way to access the information and ensure it remains confidential. The participants have the right to remain anonymous; if anonymity cannot be assured then the participants should be made aware of that before beginning the research. The researcher should ensure the safety of participant’s integrity and wellbeing. If issues arise due to privacy of the participants then the right to privacy should be respected by the researcher. In the research process the researcher is expected to be honest, “deception is not permissible in research” (Walliman, 2005).

Institutional/internal review boards (IRBs)

These are committees formed to oversee the research carried out in the organizations. Their main function is to monitor the research process and especially when it comes to the application of ethical code of conduct and its application.

Longitudinal and cross sectional research

Longitudinal research is research that is carried out over several periods of time while cross sectional research is done only for a certain period of time. An example of longitudinal research can be the investigation of changing weather patterns over time. And a cross sectional research can be for instance, identification of the causes of a certain disease outbreak.

Primary versus secondary data (refine your definitions from Unit 1 if need be)

Primary and secondary data are normally differentiated by the sources of data. Primary sources are those that give data by detached observation or measurement of an occurrence in the real world. “Secondary sources give data that has been subjected to interpretation” (Kothari, 1995). Primary data is collected through experiment and survey while secondary data is obtained from secondary sources like records, journals or articles.

Internal and external validity

As earlier defined, validity refers to the closeness of an outcome to the truth. “Internal validity identifies the relationship between the plan and the outcome” (Kombo, 2006). It is an informal relationship. For instance, investigation on whether a price reduction has led to increased sales. External validity refers to the likelihood to apply the results of one particular study in a generalized setting. For Example, application of intervention programs that succeeded for one region to another.

Face validity, content validity, criterion validity, construct validity, inter-rater reliability, internal consistency reliability, equivalent forms reliability, and test-retest reliability.

Face validity asks whether there is a relationship between the program and the intended outcome. Content validity asks whether there is a relationship between the contents of a program with the outcome. Criterion validity asks whether the criteria used in a program has any relationship with the outcome. Construct validity asks whether there is a relationship between the way the ideas were used in the study and the actual underlying relationship being studied. Inter rater reliability identifies the consistency of reliability measurements taken by different researchers. Internal consistency employs the use of different tests to measure the same concept. Example, questions asked to measure performance. Equivalent forms of reliability are forms of tests that give same measurements of consistency. Test-retest reliability is achieved by performing two or more consecutive measures to ascertain consistency. For Example, performing two tests to measure the blood glucose level on one sample and comparing the results.

Quantitative and qualitative research (refine your definitions, thinking, and examples from earlier units)

“Quantitative research is research that is based on measurement of quantity or amount” (Kothari, 1995). It is applied to phenomena that can be quantified. For Example, investigation of effects of increasing doses of a particular drug to the body. Qualitative research is concerned with qualitative phenomena For Example, when one is interested in investigating the reason for a particular human behavior. Qualitative research is specifically important to behavioral sciences where the aim is to discover the underlying motive of human behavior.

Hawthorne effect

This is an effect produced when a study is being carried out on individuals. The people under study, lets say employees of an organization produce more due to the “mere fact that they are under observation or study”(Kothari, 1995).


This is similar to cross examination where two or more techniques are used in research to ascertain the results. For example, using different tests to measure blood sugar levels.

Confirmability, credibility, dependability, verification, and transferability

Confirmability refers to the ability to ascertain the results of a study while credibility is the accurate demonstration of the objects of the study. Dependability is same as reliability. Verification is the confirmation of the results of a study. Transferability refers to the ability to apply results of one study to another similar problem.

Characteristics of a proposal

An effective research proposal should have the following characteristics; “should clearly state the research being proposed, how the research will be carried out, when it will be carried out and how much it will cost” (Kombo, 2006).

Research design (RD)

A research design is the structure of research; it’s the ‘glue’ that holds together all the components of a research together. RD can also be defined as the plan that is used to generate answers to the research problem. There are several types of research designs which include; experimental, correlational, descriptive, case study and cross cultural research design.


A sample is a representative fraction of the population which the study is being carried out. “A representative sample should be free from bias” (Moser, 1979).

Sampling procedure

This is technique the researcher uses to select the number of individuals or objects from a population that can be representative of the characteristics found in the entire population of study. “Sampling can be done using probability and non probability sampling design” (Kombo, 2006).


This is a group of individuals or objects from which samples are taken for studying.

Random selection and random assignment

Random selection is probability sampling where by the samples are randomly selected and every member of the population has an equal chance of being selected. Random assignment refers to giving of tests randomly to subjects in a study.

Experiment and investigation

An experiment is a test performed to generate “first hand facts from the source” (Kothari, 1995). It requires a stimulation to produce the desired information. An investigation on the other hand is a detailed careful inquiry of some phenomena to ascertain facts.

Researcher control

This refers to the manipulation of the conditions in a study by the researcher in order to get desired results or reduce chances of error.

Independent and dependent variable

Dependent variable refers to the variable that is put to treatment in a study while the independent variable is the variable that is observed to detect any changes after treatment of the dependent variable. For example, in studying protein levels in HIV patients; HIV will be the dependent variable while protein level will be the independent variable.

Representative sample

“This refers to a sample that will represent all the characteristic of the target population that the researcher is studying” (Kothari, 1995). A representative sample is best selected by random sampling to reduce the chances of bias.

Real-life setting

This refers to natural environment. In research this refers to undertaking a study without any manipulation to the subjects under investigation. The researcher only observes and records the outcomes.

Reference Table

Applied Research Basic research
Action research
Program evaluation
Cost benefit analysis
Grounded theory
Factor analysis
Experimental designs


Kombo, D. K. (2006). Proposal and thesis writing: An introduction. Nairobi: Paulines Publications Africa.

Kothari, C. R. (1995). Research Methodology. New Delhi: Wishwa Prakashan.

Moser, C. A. (1979). Survey Methods in Social investigation. Great Britain: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd and English language Book society.

Walliman, N. (2005). Your Research project 2nd Edition. New Delhi: Vistaar Publications.

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ChalkyPapers. "Research Reference Manual." January 31, 2022.